New Haj season: Saudi Arabia prepares for large number of pilgrims

Cairo: Saudi Arabia is speeding up preparations to receive more than 2 million Muslim pilgrims for the annual Haj pilgrimage later this month.

Government and private sector organizations are collaborating to implement operational programs to ensure that pilgrims perform the Hajj rituals in and around the holy city of Makkah with ease and convenience.

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Competence agencies are expecting a record number of pilgrims this year after about 30 million Muslims from inside and outside the kingdom took part in the Umrah, a minor pilgrimage, to Islam’s holiest site in Mecca during the last Ramadan period that ended in April. 9, 2024.

During Ramadan, 33 million Muslims pray at the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, Islam’s second holiest site. In the same month, Prince Mohammed bin Abdulaziz Airport in Madinah received 9 million passengers. Many pilgrims usually visit Madinah either before or after Hajj.

This year, 3,500 personnel at the Saudi Ministry of Hajj are tasked with caring for pilgrims arriving and departing from Medina, where numerous Islamic historical sites have been renovated and tour guides provided to receive visitors.

About 1.8 million Muslims worldwide performed Hajj last year, marking a return to pre-pandemic levels in terms of numbers. Saudi Arabia has made preliminary preparations for this year’s Hajj scheduled for next month under a new strategy for foreign pilgrims.

Accordingly, countries will no longer be allocated specific seats. Instead, slots are allocated to different countries depending on the timing of completing contracts. The new mechanism aims to facilitate preparations for Hajj, a mandatory Islamic obligation that must be undertaken at least once in a lifetime by physically and financially able Muslims.

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Saudi Arabia has warned Muslims planning to perform Hajj against fake campaigns and websites and limited legal options.

Relying on official channels guarantees access to the pilgrimage and protects pilgrims’ rights during the journey, the Hajj Ministry said. The ministry has insisted that all pilgrims should get a Hajj permit.

The announcement follows a recent statement by the Council of Senior Scholars, Saudi Arabia’s highest Islamic body, that performing Hajj without official permission is considered a sin.

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